GOOGLE STADIA REVIEW
Google Stadia is ONLINE CLOUD gaming's first truly bright long-term forecast. After spending years tied to the console the upgrade cycle, gamers are about to get a welcome suspension.
Stadia gives you access to a increasing digital game library that works anywhere you go. Ambitious as it sounds, we’ve finally tested it in our own home and we can firmly say that it’s a true console alternative and, in time, a potential platform killer.
Update: To help fight efforts to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, Google is making the Pro tier of Google Stadia free for all to try for two months from 8 April, 2020. You'll get access to nine games in the trial, including Destiny 2 and Grid, with support for all platforms (Android, iOS and computers) included. Google may throttle resolution during the trial, in order to remain responsible with internet traffic demands at present.
Besides offering surprisingly enjoyable performance with little-to-no latency on our home network, the service offers on-the-go streaming via phones and tablets as well as at home on PCs and Chromecast. On top of that, Stadia does built-in YouTube Gaming live-streaming and, if you buy a Premiere Edition, comes with an ergonomic Wi-Fi controller that reduces latency showing Google has looked at Stadia from all angles.
So, how does it stack up to competitors like PlayStation Now and Geforce Now? Well, we found that Stadia significantly outperformed PlayStation Now in terms of stability - we never experienced a drop out the entire week with the service - and while Geforce Now promises a larger library, Stadia is streaming 4K HDR, something that Geforce Now currently isn’t supporting. There are a number of minor problems plaguing the service that will be fixed in time - like the way Stadia handles its Pro subscriptions and its limited game selection - and a few major ones like the fact that a number of features like Google Assistant and YouTube Gaming integration aren’t currently supported. But if Google can clear up the confusion around Pro, expand Stadia’s game library and turn on all the features it promised, it really could be the be-all, end-all game-streaming platform.
Google Stadia release date and price
GOOGLE STADIA RELEASE DATE AND PRICE
Google Stadia is available to folks who ordered a Founders Edition or Premiere Edition starting on November 19 in 14 different territories including the US, UK and Canada. Both the Founders Edition and Premiere Edition cost $130 / £119 (around AU$190), but the former sold out months ago and was replaced by the latter.
There are very minor differences in terms of the packages - the Founders Edition comes with a Blue Stadia Controller, while Premiere Edition has a white one and the Founders Edition comes with a free 30-day trial for a friend - but both editions come with a controller, a Chromecast Ultra and a three-month subscription to Stadia Pro.
After your three-month subscription runs out, you’ll pay $9.99 / £8.99 per month for your Stadia Pro subscription which will be automatically from whichever card you have on file with Google. (And yes, unfortunately Google Stadia requires a credit card when you sign up, so keep that in mind.)
Should you ever need a new controller or decide to wait for 2020 when the free service comes out and buy a controller then, the Stadia Controller will cost you $69 / £59.
GOOGLE STADIA: WHAT IS IT?
Google Stadia is the name of both a new game-streaming service from Google as well as the name of the storefront from which you’ll buy games. Anything you buy is yours to keep, but you’ll likely be paying full price for all the games you’ll find on the Stadia store.
What Stadia promises (and mostly delivers) is a game-streaming experience that only requires the most basic of equipment: a Chromecast Ultra or your phone or your laptop, plus a controller of your choosing - either Google’s own Stadia Controller, the Xbox One controller or the PS4’s DualShock4 gamepad.
Last but not least you need a connexion to the internet, something we thought would be an early nail in the platform’s coffin considering how few of us have fibre connexions.That being said, Google Stadia works on 10Mbps connexions and only requires 35Mbps for full 4K HDR/60fps.
There’s also the black sheep requirement: a Stadia Pro subscription. Now, at some point, you won’t need Stadia Pro to play games on the service: Sometime in 2020, you’ll be able to buy games on Stadia and play them on any supported device without any subscription.
Unfortunately, right out of the gate, you’ll need Stadia Pro - a monthly subscription that enables you to play games in 4K HDR quality, gets one or two free games for you at launch and offers you a discount when buying some games. But, importantly, despite what its name implies, Stadia Pro isn’t Netflix and it’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet of games.
GOOGLE STADIA APP: WHICH DEVICES SUPPORT IT?
Both the signup and streaming service are activatedthruthe Google Stadia app on Android and iOS. Once you’re logged in, you can then either Cast a game from the app to your Chromecast Ultra that comes with either of the two editions or go to Stadia.com to start streaming to your PC.
The third option, and the one that’s a bit trickier, is that you can connect a Stadia Controller to a Google Pixel 3, Google Pixel 3a or Google Pixel 4 phone, and stream directly to your phone. Try to stream on any other phone and the app will either ask you to connect to Chromecast Ultra or reenforce the three main entry points with a wall of explainer text.
There are pros and cons to all three of the ways to access the streaming service which we’ll cover in the performance section below, but Google has done a phenomenal job of getting the controller to pair with all three access points, allowing you to jump between them pretty seamlessly. (But, as far as we know, you can’t be logged on and streaming to two devices at the same time, so you probably shouldn’t hand out your Stadia account info willie-nilly.)